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The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown that past mitigation efforts have been too little and too late (IPCC 2007a). Climate change becomes a reality of world politics in the twenty-first century. This requires a new, additional focus in both academic research and policy planning. How can we build systems of global governance that will cope with the global impacts of climate change? What institutions are in need of redesign and strengthening? And to what extent, and in what areas, do we need to create new institutions and governance mechanisms?
These questions are at the centre of the third part of this book. While substantial research exists on local and national adaptation policies and institutions, the focus of this part is on global adaptation governance, an area that is still least explored. Global adaptation governance will affect most areas of world politics, including many core institutions and organizations. The need to adapt to climate change will influence, for example, the structure of global food regimes and the work of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; global water regimes and the relevant organizations and programmes; global health governance and the agenda of the World Health Organization; global trade in goods whose production will be harmed or helped by climate change; the world economic system and the ability of the International Monetary Fund to address climate-related shocks to national and regional economies; and many other sectors from tourism to transportation, energy or even international security. Almost all areas of global governance will be challenged to cope with global warming and its impacts on human and natural systems. Yet not much research is available. In light of the most recent scientific findings, which indicate possibly accelerating climatic change, there is an urgent need for a new academic research programme on what we propose to call ‘global adaptation governance’.
Climate change is likely to cause or increase regional migration, for example when coastal areas are given up because of sea-level rise and more frequent and severe storm surges. The future problem of ‘climate refugees’ is often associated with smaller island states, such as the Maldives or Tuvalu. Indeed, in 2006 the Republic of the Maldives (2006) organized a first meeting of representatives of governments, humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies on this issue. Yet climate-related migration could also evolve into a much larger, global crisis far beyond threats to a few island nations. According to some estimates, by 2050 more than 200 million people might flee their homes due to climate change (Myers and Kent 1995; Myers 2002; see also the discussion in Stern 2007: ch. 3.5). Such estimates have a large margin of error and depend on underlying assumptions about population growth, economic development, temperature increase or the degree and timing of climate change impacts such as sea-level rise (critically on such estimates see Suhrke 1994: 478; Black 2001: 2–8; Castles 2002: 2–3). Yet most scenarios agree on a general trend: that global warming might force millions of people to migrate to other places.
Most of these climate refugees are likely to come from developing nations (Barnett et al. 2005: 306; Nagy et al. 2006; Warren et al. 2006: 18, 20, 41–42). Most victims of sea-level rise are expected in Asia: 26 million people in Bangladesh and 73 million people from China could be forced to flee their homes because of sea-level rise (Myers 2002: 211). In Africa and to a lesser degree in Latin America many people may also experience flooding (Myers and Kent 1995: 148; Nicholls et al. 1999: 80; Myers 2002: 611; Nicholls 2003: 16; Brooks et al. 2006: 6). For many smaller island states, their very existence may be threatened by sea-level rise (German Advisory Council on Global Change 2006: 46, 50).
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